DVD Review – Icons Of Sci-Fi – Toho Collection

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Please note that this is a review of the DVD set, and NOT the films contained therein.

On the surface, this is a GREAT package. In one fell swoop, and usually at a price below $20, you get three great Toho Special Effects films, directed by Ishiro Honda reflecting his diversity of genres:

The H-Man, a unique blend of science-fiction, horror and detective movies with radioactive blobs wreaking havoc around Tokyo, amidst a police investigation of a drug gang.
Battle In Outer Space, a space opera in which the denizens of the planet Natal attempt to invade Earth.
Mothra, one of the best examples of Toho’s Kaiju Eiga (Giant monster movie).

As I said – on the SURFACE, it’s great. Here’s the deeper-digging breakdown.

The Pluses:

1) Each film has its own disc, to ensure good picture quality, which they have.

2) Each film has both the American version (with original dubbing as theatrically released) AND the original Japanese version

3) Very good picture quality and very good audio quality. (NOTE – I do NOT have a HD TV)

4) The commentaries – The commentaries on both Mothra and Battle In Outer Space are provided by Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, two experts on Japanese film – especially effects films – and their love for, and knowledge of, it is obvious.

The Minuses

1) The packaging – Both the cover and the case itself are not winners. The case only has ONE spindle upon which all 3 discs are on, as opposed to 2 on 1 side, 1 on the other. This can lead to possible scratches, IMHO. As for the cover, I just don’t get the design. It looks ‘ok’ as a small image on Amazon, but once I got it in my hands, I was non-plussed. It has a dark, grunge border, yet has bright, semi-amped up contrast screen caps from the films. The titles of the films are almost lost on the cover as they are small and not vibrant. The back cover seems too busy for my taste. The bright laser flash under the white text does NOT help, either.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t a cover supposed to be what sells its contents? Granted, it’s a given that the bulk of the buyers will KNOW the films, but still.  This looks like this was just a design thrown together by someone who either didn’t care about the product, or didn’t know the product, in a similar fashion that I showed in my re-design of the KK vs G packaging. Even with the outlook of “the fan will buy it anyway”, you should give them something they’ll LIKE. With the wealth of stills and poster art undoubtedly available to them, this seems like laziness to just use caps, which are NEVER the best source to use for print. I’ll try a ‘re-design’ for this one over the next few days, and post it.

2) Menus – Basic and boring. The Classic Media Toho Master Collection Godzilla releases had interactive menus.

3) The commentaries – Problem #1 – H-Man has no commentary. I was disappointed. Problem #2 – the commentaries that are there delve TOO much into the minutia of the lives and careers of the cast and crew, IMHO. They also repeatedly go off the topic of the film being shown to talk about different series of films that the cast appeared in. Since so many of the cast has appeared in multiple Toho films, especially the ones released by Classic Media (ALSO owned by Sony), it’s material that’s been extensively covered. I know that it might not be wise to assume that buyers already have those, but think about this: What are the odds that the person who’d listen to the commentaries wasn’t a die-hard Toho fan who already had the rest?

4) The subtitles on the Japanese version of Battle In Outer Space – The English subtitles on the original versions of Mothra and H-Man are direct translations of the Japanese scripts. They are quite different from the dubbed English scripts being spoken. For some reason, the subs on Battle are taken from the dubbed version which was, as pointed out in the commentary, not as well written as the original. I was very disappointed by this.

5) Lack of bonus features – There are no extras, except the Japanese trailers & some still galleries.

Overall, it is a nice deal, but I’m confused as to why Sony didn’t go with the design formula used on the Classic Media sets, as they own those as well. I know most folks aren’t as picky as I am, but I have to calls ’em as I sees ’em.

On the whole, I give the set a rating of 3 out of 5 Jaggies, due to the poor packaging, poor subtitling and lack of a third commentary, but great film and sound quality, and having both versions of each film.

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One comment

  1. You’ve officially confirmed all my prejudices regarding these 3-for-one sets. Or 50-for-one. Or whatever. They’re all the same: that “the fans will buy it anyway” outlook is poisoning the genre, warning potential fans away by looking cheap as hell. I could slap that cover together in five minutes using my Photoshop rip-off. I ask you, where are our Toho Masters Collection editions of these flicks, at least two of which are some of Ishiro Honda’s finest? At least they use the original poster art.

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